ShareThis Page

Silk dance program gives females chance to get 'circus fix,' build strength

| Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Cattibrie Baynes, 10, of Whitehall, works on her aerial acrobatics using a ring at the Fullbody Fitness Club in Brentwood, Saturday, December 7, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Lauren Tan, 22, of Bethel Park, works on her silk dance aerial acrobatics at the Fullbody Fitness Club in Brentwood, Saturday, December 7, 2013.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Laura Kampert, of Farmington, works on her silk dance aerial acrobatics at the Fullbody Fitness Club in Brentwood, Saturday, December 7, 2013.

Cattibrie Bayens, 10, of Whitehall, played one day on her swing set, wrapped her arms around the ropes of the swing and flipped through.

Her mother, Jennifer, told her she should take lessons, then later passed by the Fullbody Fitness Club in Brentwood and said, “ ‘Oh, my gosh, they have the silks,' and I put her in the class.”

Ally Citro, 16, of Ohiopyle wanted to learn how to do high-flying routines using long, flowing fabrics since she saw a Cirque du Soleil show. Her mother found the Fullbody class online, and now the two drive one hour each way so that Ally can learn how to use the silks.

The two girls along with seven women are in an intermediate and advanced class at Fullbody Fitness called Silk Dance, Aerial Fitness and Mixed Apparatus.

“I think it works all the muscle groups,” said Lauren Tan, 22, of Bethel Park, a former gymnast and contortionist who had to give up traditional gymnastics after suffering a herniated disc. Doctors advised her that the pounding impact of landing jumps would be bad for her back.

Tan can do many of the gymnastics forms she once did, but in the air. The “silks” catch her as she flips around — no pounding necessary.

“I was looking for another way to get my circus fix; this is a new way to get upside down,” Tan said. “It works your arms. It's great for cardio, too, (with) all the climbing.”

The class uses the same kind of strong fabric “silks” that Cirque du Soleil uses, firmly attached to a rigging that hangs from the steel beams of the Fullbody studio on Brownsville Road. The students use the silks, the lira or large hoop, a trapeze and a rope.

The students began Saturday's session with a warmup that included various stretches. Then they went to the silks.

Wrapping their arms and legs with the lengths of fabric, they started by hanging low to the ground and lifting their legs out to work the core. Then they climbed higher, wrapping their limbs with the silks. Then, with all the kinetic energy of a seasoned Cirque performer, Cattibrie flipped downward through the silks in what is called a drop. She has been taking lessons for more than a year.

“The first time I ever saw her do a drop, I was nervous,” her mother said. “Now, I only get nervous when it's a new one.”

Cattibrie said her ultimate goal is to perform someday with Cirque du Soleil.

“It relieves all my stress and feels great,” the fifth-grader said.

But the class has other benefits.

“It is such a full-body workout,” said Kelsey Keller, 27, of the North Side, the instructor. Keller taught dance classes in high school and college and trained as an instructor at Infinitely Aerial of Columbus, Ohio.

“It's definitely helped my upper-body strength,” said Nicolyn Aleprete, 29, of Trafford, who has a degree in dance from Slippery Rock University and is a dance teacher. “It's always been something I've wanted to try. For me, this class is a stretch. I was never courageous or a gymnast.”

Although Citro, Tan and Aleprete have dance and/or gymnastics backgrounds, studio owner Darieth Chisholm said those experiences are not a prerequisite for taking a beginners' silk dance class.

“It looks intimidating, but you'll be amazed what you can learn in a short amount of time,” Chisholm said.

“I have people tell me, ‘Oh, I have no upper-body strength,' and they're now climbing the silks,” said Keller, whose students have included people in their 40s and briefly, a 70-year-old. “You just build up to it. There's nothing like flying. It's addicting.”

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.